Learning the Basics of Bass Guitar
The bass guitarist is an essential element in any band. They are the one who keeps the beat, and provides the backbone of any well played song. While it may take years of practice to be as good as your bass guitar hero, learning to play isn’t as tricky as you may first think.
Get to Know Your Bass
Before you even think about plucking a string, you need to know the basics of your guitar’s construction. The key parts of your bass are the body, which holds the pickup, tune controls, and the bridge; the neck sits above the body with the head stock at the other end. On the headstock you will find the tuning pins or keys. The strings run from these, down the length of the neck and body to the bridge at the lower end of the body.
Learn to Tune Your Bass
Tuning your guitar, as with any instrument, is essential. Most bass guitars have four strings, each of which has its own note (E, A, D, and G). E is the lowest pitch and the highest is G. To tune the bass properly you need to know what each string should sound like. Electronic tuning devices will help match the pitch, but learning by listening is the best way to start. There are numerous apps that provide the sound pitch of each string for you to listen to.
Explore The Amp
If you are playing an electric bass guitar you need an amplifier. As the name suggests, it amplifies the sound made as you pluck the strings. The amp simply plugs into the bass using an audio cable. The key thing to learn with an amp is the difference between volume and gain. The gain will create distortion, while this can sound great, it doesn’t always and you should probably keep it at a low setting while you are still learning.
Perfecting Your Posture
This isn’t just about looking good, it is also (and mainly) about getting the best sound without the risk of strains, particularly in your back and wrists. If you haven’t already then the first thing you need to do is attach your guitar strap and adjust it so that it sits comfortably. You should be able to rest your right lower arm on the bass and reach the strings with your right hand. The specific position of your arm and hand is individual, but you should be able to do this without raising your shoulder. You should try different positions for your hand until you get a good sound and a good position.
Perfect Your Plucking
Now you are almost ready to start playing. Before you start trying to get both hands to work together, you need to get them used to their individual jobs and build up muscle memory. Start with the right hand. This is the one over the body of the guitar that will pluck the strings. Ideally you should use your middle and index fingers for plucking to reduce the amount of movement needed in your wrist. Of course, you don’t have to use your fingers, you can invest in a bass guitar pick. In this case you need to hold it between your index finger and you thumb. The pick needs to be moved down across the string and then back up.
Muting The Strings
Now it is the turn of the other hand. Its primary job is to create the individual notes by holding the right strings down and being able to move between notes. This is the part that takes time to learn, and can be painful until you have hardened your fingertips. If you have long finger nails, cut them, it is much easier to learn to hold down single strings without nails getting in the way.
Timing and Tablature
Investing in a metronome will really help improve your timing. Remember if you can’t keep time, then there is no hope for the rest of the band. The tablature is about knowing what notes you need to be playing and when. Beginners tablatures will support your learning by stating where your fingers need to be at any given time, or for any given note.
There are numerous effects that you can create with a bass guitar, but don’t try these until you have got the basics down. A good rule of thumb is to learn to play the E major scale, before you do anything else. If you can get this, then you are well on your way to being a bass player.
Choosing the Perfect Bass Guitar
It is very easy to get excited when looking for your first bass guitar and go for the most expensive and complex one you can find. This would be a mistake. When you are learning simple is best. Stick with a four-string bass, and basic tune controls. At this stage, if you don’t understand what it does, you don’t need it. If you can get a starter kit that has everything you need, then that’s even better. One such kit is by Davison Guitars. This full size four-string bass is teacher approved. It has just two tune controls for volume and tone, and comes complete with practice amp, audio lead, and guitar case.
One point that is worth noting is that all of the above is from the perspective of a right handed individual. If you are left handed, you have two choices. You can either invest in a left handed bass guitar, which you can also buy through Davison Guitars on Amazon.com or you can learn to play right handed. There is no wrong answer with this, it is down to what you are most comfortable with. All that is left for you to do now is buy your first guitar and start practicing.